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The fourth heroin-related death in Columbus within a month has reinforced city leaders’ belief that a community action plan, which already is in the works, is necessary.
The latest death involved a 19-year-old male who was found at 4 a.m. Thursday in a friend’s apartment in the 2200 block of Sims Court.
Although medics attempted CPR, the teen was pronounced dead at the scene by Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher, who has ruled the cause of death as a heroin overdose.
“We really want to know where he got this heroin and who’s spreading it around in our streets,” Columbus Public Safety spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said.
Undercover narcotics officers have made more purchases of heroin this year than in the past five years combined, Myers said.
Late last month, police said they suspected a heroin overdose in three earlier deaths:
Aug. 3: A 23-year-old died in a western Bartholomew County home.
Aug. 17: A 25-year-old died while visiting friends in a motel room off Jonathan Moore Pike.
Aug. 21: A 25-year-old died at a home in the 300 block of Flatrock Drive.
In the latest death, a resident of the apartment told investigators both he and the victim had used heroin early Wednesday night.
When the resident woke up early Thursday, he found the 19-year-old unresponsive and not breathing, Myers said.
Family members told police the teen had a history of substance-abuse problems, Myers said.
Most of the heroin users appear to be adults ages 18 to 25, Myers said.
Instead of liquid, a brown-colored powder form of heroin seems to have been used by all four victims, and investigators suspect the overdoses were caused by a high concentration of heroin, rather than accidental or intentional tainting, Myers said.
The drug seems to be coming into Bartholomew County from Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Chicago, he said.
Police are focused on cutting off the supply of drugs, Myers said.
A public-private coalition convened by Mayor Kristen Brown and the United Way of Bartholomew County is meeting once a month to address both substance abuse and mental health, Brown said.
The group includes:
This group, which is expected to eventually expand to include sub-groups addressing specific problems, is looking at a variety of ways to reduce demand for drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and illegally obtained prescription drugs.
Eventually, the group will begin pushing for an increase in community resources in order to tackle the growing addiction problems, Brown said.
Some options currently being explored include expanding neighborhood watches and creating the position of drug interdiction officer.
Brown said that it’s up to the entire community to first recognize the problem through public awareness, and then address the issue from a demand standpoint.
“Law enforcement can be very aggressive, but as long as there is an appetite for these types of drugs, we’re just chasing our tails,” Brown said.
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